The Nushagak Fish and Game Advisory Committee has finalized their comments on the setnet permit stacking proposal for Bristol Bay that will be taken up at next week's Board of Fisheries meeting.
During the December Board of Fisheries meeting focused specifically on Bristol Bay the Board voted to let the 3-year experiment of permit stacking in the Bay's setnet fishery expire. However, the topic will be back in front of the Board thanks to a board generated proposal that seeks to reinstate a permit stacking system in the setnet fishery.
The catch is that the proposal would only allow one person to own and fish 2 setnet permits in the Egegik and Ugashik Districts. The task of formalizing the comments of the Nushagak Fish and Game Advisory Committee was given to a subcommittee of 6 members of the larger committee. The subcommittee met Wednesday in Dillingham and reiterated the committee's earlier position to oppose any permit stacking in the Bay's setnet fishery. One of the members of the subcommittee is Dillingham based setnetter Tom O'Conner.
"The reason it's bad is that it's believed to be forcing outmigration of permits."
At the December Board of Fish meeting the Board was presented with information that seemed to imply that permit stacking in the Bristol Bay setnet fishery was resulting in permits leaving the hands of local Bristol Bay residents and there was concern that it was increasing permit values thus making it more difficult for local residents to buy a setnet permit. Those factors and the opposition of many of those who testified likely impacted the decision of the Board to let the setnet permit stacking system sunset at the end of 2012. However, several of those who fish in the Eastside districts testified in favor of the permit stacking system and the Board decided to look at the issue again during next week's Area M meeting. Another member of the subcommittee of the larger Nushagak Fish and Game Advisory Committee is Dan Dunaway from Dillingham who addressed the issue of the Board taking up a Bristol Bay specific proposal at an Area M meeting.
"That troubles me a lot. They had the opportunity to deal with this during the Bristol Bay meeting."
The Board of Fisheries meeting focused on Bristol Bay was held in December in Naknek and compared to many Board of Fish meetings it was sparsely attended and most of those who were there were Bristol Bay area residents. While there was testimony on both sides of the issue the majority of the public comments were opposed to allowing the setnet permit stacking system to continue. Another member of the subcommittee that met on Wednesday was commercial fishermen Robert Heyano from Dillingham who is a past member of the Board of Fish. He claims there are some factors to consider now that the proposal will be heard during a Board of Fish meeting that will be held in Anchorage.
"It takes away the advantage of deciding Bristol Bay issues at the meeting held in the region. Now there is the potential of having a lot of people who don't live in the region showing up at the Board of Fish meeting."
The Board of Fisheries Area M meeting will run from February 26th through March 4th at the Sheraton Hotel in Anchorage. It's anticipated that the Bristol Bay setnet permit stacking proposal will be taken up during the committee of the whole portion of the meeting which means it likely will be the first proposal decided by the Board of Fish.